There has definatly been progress in our little community that we created on the Titan server. Some of us have put in some serious time leveling and about 25-30 of us are progressing into the game slowly but surely. I have experienced many of the new changes that Square Enix have brought to FFXI. Some of them I like very much, some I wish they did a long time ago and some I feel they could have done without. But the overall feeling as this is still a great game, one that needs to be experienced and one that I needed to experience again to really learn a few things.
One thing that I have learned is that this is game is made with true Japanese spirit. One of family, comraderie, cooperation and respect. Four pillars that sometimes are missing in some of the more modern MMORPG's of late. Yeah, I know, instances require cooperation and a balance of classes to progress through. Boss fights require a lot of cooperation and in order to get anything real done in endgame, you need to be in a large endgame consious guild/clan/linkshell etc.
However, Sqaure Enix has built that mindset into the core of all its games. FFXIV aside because I am yet to play the game, I am just going off experience from the past 15-20 years, back to the Nintendo version. As far as I remember FFXI was never a good solo game. Only a few classes can hang in the solo scene, one was beastmaster and the other was anyone brave enough to level a RDM/NIN mix. But things have changed drastically. The mobs give more exp when you kill something at lower level than you. Also the Fields of Valor feature has been added to many sone so that you can undertake quests in open areas given from books that give you experience, money and tabs for killing a certain amount of mobs. Those tabs can buy you buffs, food, and regenerating buffs to help you on your way. NO LONGER WE NEED A RDM FOR REFRESH!!! No issues here, nope, no flashbacks, resentments? Me? No way, I am totally at peace with the whole RDM debacle of 2006.
With the Wings of the Goddes expansion brought the Dancer, which is a great solo class as a sub for most jobs. What I hear is that it makes NIN/DNC the best soloing class in the game. I am yet to unlock the job as it is taken me so much work to cultivate the NIN/ in that pair that I haven't had the energy to do it. Ninja is not just a job that you can do, its a commitment job that I wouldn't be able to handle if I didn't have a fellow LS mate supplying me with my ninja stash.
However, with all this solo-friendly content, we still form these groups and head down to the old leveling spots like the dunes, Yuhtunga and Yhoator jungle and grind mobs for hours. It can be tedious, but I have spent some really good quality time with people that I normally wouldn't if we were playing solo. Another good feature that SE has added was the level-sync feature. Back then, before the sync, it was hard to find groups 1 or 2 levels off of everyone elses level. Sometimes it took hours to find a group only because the levels were off by 1, which gimped exp to a degree of making the party worthless.
This new level-sync system also ensures that no one will be left behind. There was recently a member concerned about people leveling fast and that he felt rushed. That is not a problem we consoled him, that he can and will always have a party available as we can sync to his level. This also gives other members the freedom to try out new classes and combinations, still able to party with the same people.
But you can still solo if you want to. I just prefer to spend time with fun people and enjoy the game for what it is at its core. A group focused game that FORCES people to use proper social skills. It is not forced grouping if you like the group you are with.
One thing that I am not too thrilled with is the new abyss system. This is an instanced area where high level players create groups to kill high level mobs that give huge amounts of experience at a very fast rate. What I have heard that someone can level from 75-90 in just a few hours. Ok...that sounds great in theory, but then what? Do it again with another job? It sounds like an easymode way of playing and while it is attractive as you look at your level bar and it says 75,000 exp to next level, I feel that you might miss some stuff along the way.
Most of the harder missions and content has the level cap lifted, so you can practically solo your way through most of the Zilart content, all of Chains of Promathia and some of Aht Urghan. The easy thing for me to do is get into Abyss and drag my ninja to 75, max out my merit points and then do whatever else I want. Has anyone known me to be the one to take the easy way out?
There is a part of me that is happy of these changes, but at the heart of them I know that SE has had to bend to the popular opinion of western style of gaming made popular by....oh, you know who. Some of us feel that these changes are great, a little too late, but still make this game fun and enjoyable. Reminding us of why we liked RPG's in the first place. What attracted us to the old Final Fantasy franchise was the ability to cultivate a party of npc's that worked together well to complete a task. That spirit is still there, only instead of voiceless npc's we have to deal with real people. That's where things get tricky.
Sadly, we can feel that the game is nearing its twilight years. What was once a booming economy that had an Auction House full of weapons, equipment and crafting supplies is now a shadow of its former self. Some things don't sell as they should, its hard to find mid to low level equipment and you can forget about certain items because they are rediculously overpriced. I did find a solution though.
Using some online resources I was able to look up certain craftable items and even some crafters themselves, I used the group spirit and contacted these people and asked them (VERY NICELY) if they could craft me a few things, plus tip of course. Most of them didn't care about the money and were just happy to help someone out. This is how the game should be played. Not like a slot machine as simple as kill mob, get cool purple item, rinse and repeat.
Plus, SE is now planning to merge our server with the Phoenix server, cutting off all character transfers and character creation. So at the moment we are unable to recruit. They have also postponed this merger until the next patch.
Unfortunatly, due to current events and a terrible disaster in Japan, the servers have been shut down temporarily. The common thread in our forums is that we hope that everyone there is doing their best to recover and stays safe. Our thoughts and prayers go out to them.
Personally, being a 9-11 survivor and have been through some tough times and tough weather situations here, I can identify with the situation there. Ok, I have never experieced something of that magnitude, but I can still sympathize with the cause. Some of us have donated in regards to the free month that SE has promised customers. We would rather see everyone ok than a free month of gaming.
The linkshell that started out as a bunch of random people that answered a forum post are going to stick together and wait it out until the game comes back online. Some of us have taken up other games in the meantime, yet we know that when the situation improves over in Japan, we will be back together ready to take on Vanadiel. I was afraid that this fragile movement might dissapate, but everyone has decided to that we are sticking together, no one has come out and said it, but you can tell by the attitude and the activity in the forums that morale is high.
Isn't that what families do?